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Veterinary clinics are in a position to help identify cases of family violence.

Family violence is a significant public health issue in New Zealand which requires a collective and multidisciplinary commitment to address. Links between family violence and animal abuse are widely accepted, so veterinary professionals are well-placed to recognise the abuse of animals and therefore to offer support to victims of family violence and referral to specialist agencies. To do this, veterinary professionals need the knowledge and confidence to discuss the links to family violence with their clients. Currently, NZ veterinary professionals receive little to no education regarding links between animal abuse and family violence. 

For her Master of Professional Practice research Catherine Rice surveyed New Zealand veterinary professionals to collect quantitative and qualitative information regarding their knowledge and confidence in practice aspects of managing cases of animal abuse where links to family violence may apply. The results of this survey then informed her development of an interactive educational workshop which was trialled on veterinary students. Participants completed pre- and post- intervention surveys so that the participant’s knowledge, confidence, and preparedness for practice in responding to animal abuse and family violence could be compared before and after attending at the workshop.

Currently veterinary professionals feel unprepared when faced with cases of animal abuse where there are concerns about family violence. The findings of this research support the use of an interactive workshop to increase their confidence in raising concerns and responding to clients in such cases. By educating veterinary professionals to respond appropriately, they will be better able to support victims to find ways of maximising their safety and well-being, and ultimately live lives free from violence.

HEALTH & WELLBEING

May 2021